“An infra-pre-what?” It’s a common reaction I get when describing myself as an infrapreneur. Most people have heard of entrepreneurs, and many can figure out that an intrapreneur is one who makes change from within a system or institution.
But an infrapreneur – that generally isn’t part of one’s lexicon. So where does it come from? Having not researched the origins and potential past usages of this word, I certainly can’t claim authorship. But I can identify when it first entered my vocabulary.
Last fall, I co-facilitated a discussion on “Social Innovation in the Public Sector” at the StartingBloc All Fellows’ Summit. During this conversation, we asked participants to think about how careers in policy and law could connect to and enhance the field of social innovation.
StartingBloc, a fellowship for emerging leaders interested in driving social impact across sectors, describes its Fellows either as social entrepreneurs who want to start something new; intrapreneurs who want to improve an existing system; or a fuzzy third category for those generally interested in change-making and partnerships. It turns out that the StartingBloc Fellows who showed up to our session about the role for public and legal sectors in social innovation were the ones who didn’t easily identify as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs.
In our session, we discussed systems and structures to support coordinated action, and aligning incentives and creating regulations that drive behavior. Not to be left out of the social-sector lexicon, we decided we wanted a way to identify our passion for infrastructure in the social innovation space. We want to create change by developing and connecting systems, or strengthening the plumbing that makes it all work. And from this, “infrapreneur” was born.
On this blog, I will further explore this term in the context of another new term—unsectored—and explore how infrapreneurs are essential to any collaboration for social change.
So, when we meet and I introduce myself as an infrapreneur, you’ll know what I mean.
Photo credit: nateOne